Lido Key Beaches
Updated: Sep 11, 2020
The Top 12 Reasons Why I Love Lido Beach
The beaches of the Gulf Coast of Florida are renowned for soft, white sand and warm, crystal clear, cerulean blue water. Sarasota County, on the southwest coast of Florida, has over 35 miles of beach and my favorite beach is a 3-mile strip known as Lido Key. Lido Key is a barrier island off the coastal city of Sarasota and connected to the mainland by the iconic, vibrantly lit John Ringling Causeway. The shoreline of Lido Key is one continuous beach which makes it an excellent beach for walking. The Gulf coast of Lido Key is divided into 3 beaches known as North Lido Beach, Lido Beach, and Ted Sperling Park at South Lido Beach. The southeastern part of Lido Key is home to the Ted Sperling Nature Park where the mangrove tunnels are located. See my post about exploring the mangrove tunnels. The eastern coastline of Lido Key is bordered by Sarasota Bay. Each beach has its own special features and a different set of amenities. To help plan your visit go to Visit Beaches web site run by the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium. They provide daily beach reports providing the conditions and water temperature. I’ve been to a lot of beautiful beaches around the world and Lido Beach rivals many of the world’s best beaches. Here are my top 12 reasons why I love Lido Key beaches.
Shallow, Blue-tiful Water & Calm Seas
Wide, Flat Beaches
Low Key Vibe
Free & Plentiful Parking
Proximity To St. Armands Circle
Alcohol Is Permitted
#1: White Sand
The sand is simply amazing. The sand is composed mainly of quartz instead of crushed sea coral so it sparkles in the sunlight and it is pure white. Since it is white, the sand reflects the intense Florida sunshine so the sand does not get hot. The sand is very fine making it soft.
It’s not like sugar…it’s like powdered sugar.
#2: Shallow, Blue-tiful Water & Calm Seas
The Gulf Coast of Mexico tends to be very calm particularly along the coast of southwest Florida where the gulf is very shallow. You won’t be able to surf but it’s perfect for snorkeling and swimming. The small, gently rolling waves are fun for body surfing and boogie boarding. The depth changes very gradually so it remains shallow for a long ways which is great for little beach goers. Due to the calm seas with waves usually 1-2 feet, the water is crystal clear and it’s stunningly beautiful dressed in a myriad of shades of blue and green. If you think the Caribbean Sea is lovely, then you will be impressed with Lido Beach and the Gulf of Mexico.
#3: Wide, Flat Beaches
There are several areas of the beach that are particularly wide so it’s easy to find a piece of sandy real estate to call your own for the day. The widest part of the beach can be found starting at the end of St Armands Circle at the southern end of North Lido Beach to the northern most lifeguard tower on Lido Beach. There is little to no change in elevation from Ben Franklin Drive to the sea providing a very flat terrain. The flatness and the firmly packed sand near the shoreline make it easy to walk, run, and ride a bike on the beach. Beach walks are one of my favorite forms of exercise; however, it doesn’t feel like exercise especially at sunset or when I find a special seashell. I am not the only beach bum that loves walking on Lido Beach. You will see a steady stream of beach walkers which is a testament to it’s perfect beach walking quality.
Sunset viewing is a must-do activity when visiting Lido Key or if you live in Sarasota. Simply stated, the sunsets are ridiculously amazing. That’s right, the sunsets are jaw-droppingly gorgeous. If you are here on vacation, then add sunset watching to your itinerary at least one night if not every night…well not every night if you take a sunset cruise. Sunset cruises are awesome too. I like to have dinner at one of the plethora of restaurants in St. Armands Circle and view the sunset before or after dinner depending on the time of year (when the sun sets). Other times, since I live in Sarasota, my husband and I pack dinner for a picnic on the beach while watching the sunset. Other times, we pack an adult beverage (alcohol is permitted but NO glass) and sip some wine or a cocktail while the sun sinks in the sky and goes to sleep for the night. My favorite spot for sunset viewing is North Lido Beach.
#5: Low Key Vibe
Lido Beach has a relaxed, laid back, chill atmosphere more so than the frenetic, party vibe of the renowned Siesta Beach. The beach is quieter and more family friendly. There are no activities like parasailing or banana boat rides. However, Lido Key is famous for it’s mangrove tunnels so rent a kayak or paddleboard or take a kayak tour to explore this unusual natural beauty that’s purely Florida. See my post about exploring the mangrove tunnels.
#6: Free And Plentiful Parking
All the beach parking is FREE except for a small paved lot (14 spaces + 1 handicap space) on the right as you leave St Armands Circle where John Ringling Blvd ends and turns into Ben Franklin Drive. There is street parking along Ben Franklin Drive from the beginning of Lido Beach to the Lido Beach Pavilion. The parallel parking spots are large affording sufficient length for a large pickup truck, large van, or even a small camper. At the Lido Beach Pavilion, there is a paved parking lot with 400 spaces. At Ted Sperling Park at South Lido Beach, there is a packed dirt lot. During high season, I can always find a parking space before 10:30 am. However, in the late morning and the afternoon during high season, I have had to wait (5-15 minutes) for a beach goer to vacate a parking spot. In low season, there is little issue with parking on Lido Beach. When I go to the beach for sunset, I can usually find a parking space anytime of the year.
“ The sand is very fine making it soft. It’s not like sugar…it’s like powdered sugar. ”
Lido Beach is not known for its shelling but I think it should be. I have collected a lot of shells from Lido Beach. It’s a treasure hunt every time I walk on the beach. I never know what I’ll find and that adds an element of fun and adventure to the beach. The highest concentration of shells is toward the northern end of Lido Beach. There is a sand bar in North Lido Beach which is an excellent spot to find sand dollars. Only collect empty (dead) shells and sand dollars. A pure white sand dollar is dead while live sand dollars are grey to purplish grey and have a hair-like fringe around their perimeter. Since there tends to be a lot of shells on the shoreline, I recommend wearing flip flops or beach shoes when walking on the beach to protect the soles of your feet. If you are here on vacation, pack a few 1 gallon ziplock bags to carry your shells in your suitcase for the trip home. To learn more about the shells you will find you can visit the Baily-Matthews National Shell Museum located on Sanibel Island (2 hours south of Sarasota).
Humans are not the only animals that love the coast. Florida is home to a wide variety of shorebirds and there are many species of shorebirds found on Lido Beach. I greatly enjoy watching the behaviors and antics of these beautiful and unique birds. It’s definitely entertaining to watch them. The Least Terns and Black Skimmers (also a type of tern) love Lido Beach so much that they nest on these shores. Black skimmers are a threatened species so please help protect them especially during their mating season (May – September). It’s a special treat to see dolphins and manatees. Dolphin and manatee sightings are more common at South Lido Beach at the mouth of Big Sarasota Pass. One time in February at Lido Beach, I waded in the water with a ‘fever’ (group) of cownose rays, a species of eagle rays, feeding in the shallow waters. You can learn about and ‘pet’ cownose rays in a controlled environment at the Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium. However seeing them in the ‘wild’ is a truly exciting and memorable experience.
#9: Outdoor Showers
Some people believe it’s a good day when you have sand in your tub/shower but I’m not one of them. It’s a cute sentiment but I’d rather leave the sand at the beach. It’s an endless battle keeping my car free of sand. I’m not complaining just stating a fact of beach life. I value having readily accessible outdoor showers to rinse my feet, sandals, body, and beach chairs. Lido Beach has a lot of outdoor showers. There are five beach access points along Ben Franklin Drive each equipped with an outdoor shower which makes it very easy to rinse off the sand. There is an outdoor shower in the Lido Beach parking lot where the handicap parking spaces are located. You can’t see the shower from the parking lot, you have to walk up a few stairs. There is also a shower at the Beach Pavilion.
#10: Proximity To St. Armands Circle
St. Armands Circle is short walk from the beach (0.6 miles from Tommy Bahama Restaurant to the Lido Beach Pavilion). It is a perfect place to shop, dine, and relax offering 138 restaurants, bars, specialty shops, spas, and boutiques. Some resorts offer shuttle service to and from the Circle. The restaurants range from upscale and gourmet to casual eateries for tacos, burgers, and pizza. Most restaurants have outdoor dining so you enjoy the warm, tropical weather. If you are looking for something cold to cool you off, there are frozen daiquiris at the Daiquiri Deck and 4 ice cream parlors including my favorite, Ben & Jerry’s. There is also a wide range of shops to buy souvenirs, trinkets, beach wear, and a variety of clothing options. There’s something for everyone. And if you fall in love with Lido Key and Sarasota and don’t want to go home, there are several real estate agencies to help you find your new forever home in paradise.
#11: Alcohol Is Permitted
Few counties in Florida allow drinking on the beach. Sarasota
County is one of the rare counties in which the consumption of
alcohol is legal on the beaches. Alcohol is permitted on Lido
Beaches but remember no glass. I like to enjoy a (plastic) glass
of wine, a can of pineapple wine, or a cocktail while watching
the sunset and sometimes during the day on special occasions
like the Fourth of July. I appreciate the fact that alcohol is
permitted and I don’t have to hide it or worry about getting a ticket.
Lido Beach has lifeguards on duty daily from 10:00am to 4:45pm. There are 3 lifeguard towers on Lido Beach protecting a little over a quarter mile of beach. There are no lifeguards on duty on North Lido Beach and South Lido Beach. According to the Sarasota County website, “the lifeguard staff training includes passing biannual qualification testing and becoming First Responder Certified”. An article in Your Observer stated there are 29 lifeguards and 13 are EMTs and they protect Sarasota County’s six public beaches year round. Each lifeguard tower has a chalkboard listing the weather conditions, expected hazards, tides, and the description for the colored warning flags.
Lido Beach is my happy place and I’m thankful that I have found my beach. Have you visited Lido Beach? What do you like most about this beach?